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Match of the Day: Say cheese!

PUBLISHED: 11:32 16 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:32 16 December 2014

Suffolk Magazine - Feature on food and beer matching with Ross Turner, beer sommelier and Hamish Johnston Cheeses.

Suffolk Magazine - Feature on food and beer matching with Ross Turner, beer sommelier and Hamish Johnston Cheeses.

Ross Turner pairs up with Hamish Johnston Cheeses to create a festive beer and cheeseboard

Suffolk Magazine - Feature on food and beer matching with Ross Turner, beer sommelier and Hamish Johnston Cheeses. Suffolk Magazine - Feature on food and beer matching with Ross Turner, beer sommelier and Hamish Johnston Cheeses.

Here we go again, Christmas is on the horizon!

After a busy year I can’t believe we’re soon to be celebrating the festive season and all it brings. Food and drink are top of the bill for many people, and both bring us together.

For this festive month I’ve decided to focus on a selection of fine cheeses, which most of us will have at the table over the Christmas or New Year period, and encourage you to buy some local bottled beer instead of the usual wine you might traditionally choose. It’s worth noting that some leading wine experts believe wine is not necessarily the perfect partner for cheese.

Cheese company Hamish Johnston has expanded and moved from a small holding in Framlingham to a much larger site at Martlesham. Will Johnston set up the retail side of the business 20 years ago from a fridge at his home in London. As demand grew, he moved to a shop in Battersea and has now been running this business for 20 years.

The Martlesham site is the hub of the wholesale side of the business and has facilities in place to expand and save on the cost of moving again. He imports many cheeses from all over Europe. If you are a cheese fan you may have tried some of them as Will supplies the Co op, Suffolk Food Hall and many restaurants and delis across the county.

There are similarities between cheese making and brewing – both use a few ingredients and different methods to create an enormous diversity of styles. In a nutshell, the start of cheese making really begins with grass, whereas beer has malted barley or wheat. The grasses are broken down and enzymes in the cows’ stomach create lactose, while in beermaking starch from the malt and the mashing create maltose and the sugars created are fermented by yeast.

Close attention to time temperature and sanitation are key to the success in both products – one slip-up can cost the end result dearly. Some cattle farmers give their animals a real treat by collecting spent grain from the mash at their local brewery to feed their cattle.

British beer is going from strength to strength – we are seeing local and national breweries adapting and brewing craft beer driven by the American market and bottling more than ever. This has followed the huge success of cask ale and its dominance over the past decade, thanks in part to CAMRA and the hard working pubs who promote it.

We now have such a choice from our local shops and farmers’ markets that this festive season I ask you to go out there and try a few. I have chosen to set up a table at home and introduce some of the fantastic bottled beers from the more popular Suffolk breweries as these are readily available throughout the county’s farm shops and stores.

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